You cannot join the ovations for your team with alcohol in your hands. You can’t really cheer for your team if you have to balance beer…
Despite these simple truths, alcohol will be sold in the stadiums of the Fifa World Cup in Brazil later this summer. One of the major sponsor in the world’s largest beer producer ABInBev. So, statements by Fifa like the following are shocking but not surprising. Fifa Secretary-General Mr. Valcke claimed: “Alcoholic drinks are part of the Fifa World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”
Also the German Football Association (DFB) has sponsorship deals with the alcohol industry. In fact every club of the highest german league, Bundesliga, has three sponsors from among Big Alcohol. All this lies at odds with the reality of alcohol use and its association with football violence. The police has come out numerous times in Germany and demanded to address alcohol’s relation to riots and violence in and around football matches. But commercial pressures prevailed so far.
In this context it is great news that reached me yesterday through an article in Spiegel Online:
The Berlin Olympic Stadium, traditional venue of the DFB Cup Final, will be kept alcohol-free for tonight’s match.
The reason is the very complex and challenging security situation. There’ll be so called Ultra “supporters” from four rivalling supporter groups in town. Dortmund and Bayern, Bayern and Schalke, Dortmund and Schalke. The DFB Cup Final is played by the teams of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the two best German teams that keep nourishing a heated rivalry. The DFB Junior Cup Final will be played by the teams of Schalke 04 and Sport Club Freiburg. The “Ultras” of Schalke and Dortmund nurse a hateful relationship and so do the groups of Bayern and Schalke and Bayern and Dortmund. Last year, when Dortmund and Bayern met in the UEFA Champions League final in London, violence between the Ultra groups erupted.
Violence in and around football stadiums has become a problem in many countries around the world – a fact that makes alcohol sponsorship ever more anachronistic.
I think it is an important step in the right direction by the DFB, the police of Berlin to ensure the football stadium is alcohol free and can be enjoyed by all in attendance. In drawing lessons from the last year’s Champions League Final and the 2012 DFB Cup Final between the same teams the DFB and police show they are willing to do what right (something that Fifa is ignorant of). Police spokesman Mr. Homalla told Spiegel Online: “Based on the experiences from the Cup final in 2012, we decided together with DFB, to refrain from serving alcohol inside Olympic Stadium. There’ll also only be light beer in the public viewing area.”
Every big journey starts with a small step. That DFB acknowledges it, too, has an alcohol problem is this small step. I am looking forward to the journey to get rid of alcohol marketing in football all together.